Meet Paulo Airaudo and Francesco Gasbarro – two young Italian chefs, bringing their own twist on Italian cuisine to the restaurant scene in Geneva. After opening just last May, their joint venture already earned its first Michelin star. Since then, they closed the restaurant, opened a new one in its place (La Osteria), and already reopened La Bottega this month. This duo is moving fast, in constant pursuit of quality and simplicity above all else.
On March 7th, chefs Paulo and Francesco re-opened the doors of their brand new La Bottega, less than a mile away from the original location. The old space is now La Osteria, which offers more traditional home-style Italian cooking, and they already have plans to open up another spot in Verbier. Read on to learn how these two met and began their culinary adventure, what to expect at the new La Bottega, and the importance of creativity, quality, and simplicity in their cuisine.
How did you meet?
Paulo: We met in Italy, when Francesco called me to work with him I was living in Scotland at the time, and my wife sent him my cv without telling me. We got along well, so we decided to open a business together instead.
What was your initial impression of each other?
Francesco: I found Paulo so determined, he really did know where he wanted to go, and I felt that was the same determination I had. It was a very strong first impression.
What are the strengths that each of you bring to the table?
Both: We both have worked in different cuisines, and our backgrounds are different, but complementary. We keep the harmony, reaching a creative approach to traditional cuisine. Furthermore, we share the same culinary philosophy.
How are your backgrounds different? And what is that culinary philosophy you share?
Francesco: I am more traditional, coming from my parent’s restaurant and some others in Italy. Paulo is more technical and innovative.
Paulo: I had a different background, having worked in different laces around the world. But we share the same view for modern cuisine: quality and simplicity.
How do you work together and collaborate on dishes, concepts, etc.?
Francesco: Paulo is more a creative and very direct person, while I’m more knowledgeable of the tradition and the wines. He is the ones who selects the wine list for La Bottega.
Paulo: We always try to reach a fine balance in the menu.
What kind of wine selection can we expect?
Francesco: We look for small producers who work in their environment and extract the best from their land. Of course, we have a great selection of Italian wines, but we also spend time discovering new artisans that share our passion for food – from France, Austria, Germany, and lately Spain. We work with incredible producers.
How would you describe your cuisine? What makes your modern approach unique?
Paulo: My cuisine is modern, because it is based on my experience – which is undeniably modern. But we keep a very strong connection with tradition. Our dishes still remind our guests of their childhood memories, and we are not looking to change that emotional effect.
What are your hopes for the new La Bottega?
Both:To have total freedom, allowing us to offer our guests our best creative proposition. We are offering only tasting menus at La Bottega now. There are different choices, but all of them are tasting menus.
Can you tell us about the different tastings you offer?
Both:We offer a business lunch at noon, always with the highest quality, but thinking of the time availability that our guests have at that time. There are different options for dinner, so even if we work with a tasting menu proposal, there is still room for our guests to choose.
Why the relocation to this spot, and what is the new concept?
Both: We are expressing our own philosophy of fine dining. Offering the highest quality in both creative cuisine and products, but keeping the informal ambience that is characteristic of our family.
Speaking of the informal ambience – how are you achieving this?
Both: We focus on the style and the design. Everything in the restaurant is of the finest quality, but with choosing for a simple decor, with no tableclothes for example, we provide a more informal feeling. We do not impose a dress code. The waiters are friendly and professional.
What artists did you work with or find for the restaurant?
Both: We make our own designs and work closely with several craftsmen that make them real and even better. We work with Sestini e Corti from Tuscany for the interior design, and with Ruggero Gesu for our dishware.
Are you working with any special producers?
Both: Always. All our products are from small local producers from Switzerland, France and Italy.
What is the biggest challenge you encountered in opening Osteria and re-opening la Bottega?
Both: Probably, our main aim – that is to transmit what Italian food is beyond pasta and pizza, and all the richness and diversity it has.
Can you tell us about some of your signature dishes that best represent the cuisine?
Both: We love beetroot all the way. We won’t give the details now, but we’ve created a very particular dish with it.
Any other projects or openings in the works?
Both: Yes, a few more. We are on a very busy year. We have just signed to open a restaurant in Verbier, a small town in the Swiss mountains.
Any ideas on what Verbier will be?
Both: It will be more related to what we offer at the Osteria – very traditional with the best quality. But we are also setting up a pizzeria and a large cocktail bar.
One tip you have for plating?
Both: Go for messy, not for square. It goes aligned with our look for freedom.